Much like a game of chess, the ultra heavy lift market requires strategy and forward thinking. Two of the major players in this small but high-profile market – Sarens and Mammoet – are making bold moves, expanding their mega crane footprint with the introduction of new models. While no one is close to calling checkmate, it will be interesting to see how things play out in this highly specialized crane sector.

In the world today, there are 13 crane models that will lift in excess of 2,000 tons. The main players in this market have been ALE, Bigge Crane & Rigging, Lampson International, Liebherr, Mammoet, Manitowoc, Sarens and Terex Demag. The cranes produced by these companies lift from 2,535 tons to 7,500 tons (see chart on page 40).

While the work they do is grand, the market for these cranes is small because the need for these machines is generally on a by-project basis. Mega cranes are expensive to design, build and mobilize. Lift planning for these cranes often requires a year, or even longer.

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The ultra-heavy lift crane market is expanding with the introduction last October of the SGC-140 from Sarens. Sarens is also building the SGC-250, one of the largest capacity cranes in the world, that will debut in 2019.

SGC series expansion

Sarens is an active player in the ultra-heavy lift realm. The company has successfully produced the SGC-120 and SGC-140 cranes that have made their successful debut on jobs around the globe. The SGC-120 is currently working in Newcastle in the United Kingdom servicing the Beatrice Offshore wind Farm project. The crane was previously working at a Reliance refinery project in India. Last October in Ghent, Belgium Sarens debuted the SGC-140. With a lifting capacity of 2,820 metric tons at a radius of 50 meters, the SGC-140 has three different boom configurations of 89, 118 and 130 meters.

“The SGC-140 bares many similarities to the SGC-120,” said Kleopatra Kyrimi, group marketing and communications manager, Sarens. “We believe it will have a strong market acceptance.”

The SGC-140 is on its way to Kazakhstan, where it will be the centerpiece crane as a part of the TCO project, which is the largest contract that Sarens has signed in its 62-year history, Kyrimi said.

“There are certain lifts that this crane will make and these lifts required a design that is custom made,” said Kyrimi. “Sarens had to come up with a solution for lifting a big surface that was difficult for the crane to hook. So, we had to develop a lifting frame.”

The lifting frame is a mechanism much like a grid that looks like a grill hanging from the hook of the crane, Kyrimi explained. It allows for more efficient lifting of modules and ensures full load control over the lifting points.

“It’s a huge rigging apparatus that is quite innovative,” she said. “They load tested it in Ghent about two months ago and now it will soon be shipped to Kazakhstan.”

And then there’s the launch of the Sarens SGC-250, the largest crane planned in the SGC series.

“This is another game completely,” said Kyrimi. “It is being built as we speak and it should launch in 2019.”

The crane is already set to go to Hinkley Point, one of the largest nuclear plant projects in the world. Hinkley Point is located in Somerset, United Kingdom.

“The SGC-250 is the fourth generation of the SGC series and it is even more diversified,” she said. “It is also containerized and its maximum capacity is 3,000 metric tons. It has a maximum boom length of 160 meters and it can be equipped with or without a jib. It can operate on a ring or on straight rails.”

She compared the rails configuration to “a crane sitting on SPMTs.” Like other companies that compete in the ultra-heavy lift market, Sarens’ sales team also has its ears to the ground looking for projects that will require these cranes.

“We have a sales team that is very trained and in place hunting for possibilities,” said Kyrimi. “Our global account managers are strategically placed to point out market locations to capture potential business. As a rule, we get a lot of repeat business with our cranes. The SGC series of cranes are made for long-term rental.”

She continued: “Standing next to an SGC makes you ponder about the limits of human engineering. One feels tiny next to these machines and is inevitably overflown by feelings of awe thinking this colossus is man-made.”

Focus crane sketch final

The unique aspect of the new Mammoet Focus crane is that it is not a ring crane, and it is vertically self-erecting. The crane can be built in a space of 22 by 22 meters. 

Mammoet Focus

Mammoet has been working in the ultra-heavy load market for many years, and the company’s 5,000-metric ton capacity PTC ring cranes have been a strong solution when oversized and heavy objects need to be installed in tight working areas.

But Mammoet has a new mega crane on the drawing board, the Mammoet Focus. The company contends the Focus will set a new standard for heavy lifting in confined spaces, primarily because of its assembly principle. The new crane is innovative because of the potential it unlocks for lifting approaches that until now have not been possible, the company said.

“The Mammoet Focus is a heavy crane intended for confined areas with limited ground-bearing capacity,” said Mammoet’s Theo Kroese. “The markets we serve first and foremost need smarter ways of lifting – maybe more so than just cranes with more capacity. The Focus has been designed with capacity in mind, of course. However, our main purpose here was to come up with smarter ways to deal with today’s lifting challenges – and for the greater part these challenges revolve around working in limited space or congested areas. We see this both in heavy industries and in inner cities, whether it’s for new projects or maintenance and upgrades. The Focus will contribute to greater efficiency across all these kinds of works. Because of its small footprint, it can work in very small spaces in which conventional cranes simply cannot be assembled. What this means is that maintenance and turnaround projects can be executed more efficiently. And when it comes to greenfield projects, the design of plant layouts or entire buildings can be optimized as less space is taken up for crane assembly.”

Vertically self-erecting

The unique aspect of the Focus crane is that it is vertically self-erecting.

“There is no crane in this category that can do this,” he said. “You only need 22 by 22 meters (72 by 72 feet), a very small area, to assemble it.”

The crane can be built vertically up to a height of 200 meters (656 feet). Only a small assist crane will be needed to lift sections in place. The crane will be ideal for jobsites with complex infrastructure and space limitations, such as plants and inner cities, Kroese said.

“It will have the capacity, versatility and reach to work in and around different layouts and requires a minimum amount of space for assembly and operation.”

The Focus is designed as a series of cranes with lifting capacities ranging from 600 metric tons (8,000-ton meters) up to 5,000 metric tons (240,000-ton meters.) The jib of the Focus is integrated in the design of the main boom so that it can switch from fixed boom to a luffing jib configuration without re-assembly, according to a Mammoet brochure about the crane. The jib position in the front boom is variable, allowing for versatility that can be adapted to the height and type of buildings and structures the crane has to operate in and over. The crane was also designed for easier transport than ring cranes. Because the mast sections are designed as separate chords and braces, they can be fully assembled at the jobsite and can utilize containerized transport.

“We are currently working out the concept and we are doing further

analysis within the market,” said Kroese. “We are speaking with customers and performing engineering work. We hope to arrive at a final investment decision midway this year. Once things get going and depending on the type of configuration decided on, we are projecting [launch] in the year 2020.”